Election 2010 Lookahead: Sunday 11 April

The who, when and where of the campaign.

Twenty five days to go and counting:

Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats

All three parties are being a little cagey about their campaigning plans today, perhaps too busy finishing off their manifestos (Labour is due to unveil its own tomorrow, the Tory party on Tuesday). So we know, for example, that Nick Clegg is visiting three constituencies today and travelling in a plane chartered from RAF Northolt, but to which constituencies, we don't know. Meanwhile, we're guessing it's a day of rest for Sam Cam after her visit to Yorkshire yesterday and some expert video blogging. Meanwhile, the big question in Labour circles is whether Gordon Brown will disappear to Hampden Park at 3pm to watch the Scottish Cup semi-final featuring Raith Rovers and Dundee United. Brown is a lifelong Raith Rovers fan.

Other parties

The British National Party's Nick Griffin continues his "National Weekend of Action", aka some canvassing in Barking and Dagenham with the BNP London Assembly member, Richard Barnbrook. In response, the RMT union has organised an anti-BNP rally in Barking. Among those expected to attend are the union's general secretary, Bob Crow, the musician Billy Bragg and the former England footballer Luther Blissett, representing Show Racism the Red Card.

The media

With the usual mix of The Andrew Marr Show and the Politics Show today, let us mark your card for the other leaders' debates. While Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are prepping for their first head-to-head-to-head on Thursday 15 April (8.30pm, ITV1), leaders from the Scottish Parliament will also be debating soon. For your diary, the dates to see the Scottish First Minister and SNP leader, Alex Salmond, the Scottish Conservatives leader, Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, and the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Tavish Scott, are 20 April (STV), 25 April (Sky) and 2 May (BBC).

Away from the campaign trail

. . . and on to another campaign. Sudan is holding its first multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections in 24 years. Today's twice-delayed poll is the first since 1986, when Sadiq al-Mahdi's Umma party was victorious. Three years later the government was overthrown in a military coup that ultimately brought Omar el-Bashir to power.

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Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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Theresa May’s Brexit speech is Angela Merkel’s victory – here’s why

The Germans coined the word “merkeln to describe their Chancellor’s approach to negotiations. 

It is a measure of Britain’s weak position that Theresa May accepts Angela Merkel’s ultimatum even before the Brexit negotiations have formally started

The British Prime Minister blinked first when she presented her plan for Brexit Tuesday morning. After months of repeating the tautological mantra that “Brexit means Brexit”, she finally specified her position when she essentially proposed that Britain should leave the internal market for goods, services and people, which had been so championed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. 

By accepting that the “UK will be outside” and that there can be “no half-way house”, Theresa May has essentially caved in before the negotiations have begun.

At her meeting with May in July last year, the German Chancellor stated her ultimatum that there could be no “Rosinenpickerei” – the German equivalent of cherry picking. Merkel stated that Britain was not free to choose. That is still her position.

Back then, May was still battling for access to the internal market. It is a measure of how much her position has weakened that the Prime Minister has been forced to accept that Britain will have to leave the single market.

For those who have followed Merkel in her eleven years as German Kanzlerin there is sense of déjà vu about all this.  In negotiations over the Greek debt in 2011 and in 2015, as well as in her negotiations with German banks, in the wake of the global clash in 2008, Merkel played a waiting game; she let others reveal their hands first. The Germans even coined the word "merkeln", to describe the Chancellor’s favoured approach to negotiations.

Unlike other politicians, Frau Merkel is known for her careful analysis, behind-the-scene diplomacy and her determination to pursue German interests. All these are evident in the Brexit negotiations even before they have started.

Much has been made of US President-Elect Donald Trump’s offer to do a trade deal with Britain “very quickly” (as well as bad-mouthing Merkel). In the greater scheme of things, such a deal – should it come – will amount to very little. The UK’s exports to the EU were valued at £223.3bn in 2015 – roughly five times as much as our exports to the United States. 

But more importantly, Britain’s main export is services. It constitutes 79 per cent of the economy, according to the Office of National Statistics. Without access to the single market for services, and without free movement of skilled workers, the financial sector will have a strong incentive to move to the European mainland.

This is Germany’s gain. There is a general consensus that many banks are ready to move if Britain quits the single market, and Frankfurt is an obvious destination.

In an election year, this is welcome news for Merkel. That the British Prime Minister voluntarily gives up the access to the internal market is a boon for the German Chancellor and solves several of her problems. 

May’s acceptance that Britain will not be in the single market shows that no country is able to secure a better deal outside the EU. This will deter other countries from following the UK’s example. 

Moreover, securing a deal that will make Frankfurt the financial centre in Europe will give Merkel a political boost, and will take focus away from other issues such as immigration.

Despite the rise of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party, the largely proportional electoral system in Germany will all but guarantee that the current coalition government continues after the elections to the Bundestag in September.

Before the referendum in June last year, Brexiteers published a poster with the mildly xenophobic message "Halt ze German advance". By essentially caving in to Merkel’s demands before these have been expressly stated, Mrs May will strengthen Germany at Britain’s expense. 

Perhaps, the German word schadenfreude comes to mind?

Matthew Qvortrup is author of the book Angela Merkel: Europe’s Most Influential Leader published by Duckworth, and professor of applied political science at Coventry University.